School of Sport and Service Management

Dr Yannis Pitsiladis in the university's labs

How Covid-19 could finally resolve some of sport’s ethical challenges – but safety first

The school’s Professor Yannis Pitsiladis says the pandemic offers a chance for sport to take a step back and review issues such as its anti-doping programmes.

Writing for Sports Medicine, Professor Pitsiladis, a Professor of Sport and Exercise Science who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Medical and Scientific Commission, suggests that the postponement or cancellation of sporting events should allow time for sporting organisations to enable ‘creative’ and ‘fresh thinking’ around issues damaging its integrity and has urged them to ‘take advantage of this opportunity’ for the benefit of sport and exercise medicine.

The article, co-written with Borja Muniz-Pardos, Mike Miller and Michele Verroken, believes that new anti-doping approaches could be combined with remote testing and artificial intelligence to determine the ‘optimal time and athlete to test, and to ensure more frequent testing as well as the integrity of the sample collection with real time assessment.’

Professor Pitsiladis also calls on World Athletics to launch an independent review focusing on the issue of ‘technological fairness’, citing new rules which aim to limit the impact of running shoe technology, following the increased, controversial use of carbon plates and thick, bouncy foam.

The article says that since the introduction of carbon plates, “all world records in the half- and full-marathon have been broken raising concerns that this technology leads to a distinct non-physiological advantage. The improvement in performance by athletes running in CFP shoes is similar to some blood doping substances included on the Prohibited List of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).”

Meanwhile, with sport at the elite level recently resuming behind closed doors, Professor Pitsiladis and University of Brighton colleague Professor Nick Webborn have recently contributed to a list of recommendations for athletes from all sports at all levels to return to action during Covid-19, based on a number of different scenarios.

The BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine article, led by Hebert Löllgen, Norbert Bachl and Theodora Papadopoulou, makes a number of recommendations for safe return to competition based on six groups ranging from athletes who have not tested to positive for coronavirus to those who have had severe symptoms.

The research suggests a “return to play will be based on the results of the examination and individual assessment in consultation with the sport and exercise medicine physician, specialists in pulmonary medicine and sport cardiology (or extended multidisciplinary team), coaches and training specialists.

“After a contact ban, an athlete should be provided with recommendations on sports resumption that are in accordance with national and regional guidelines”.

Kerry Burnett • August 10, 2020


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